Who's the Talk of Every NFL Team's Offseason So Far?

Russell S. BaxterContributor IJune 24, 2013

Who's the Talk of Every NFL Team's Offseason So Far?

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    Talk can be cheap.

    Talk can also be a good thing as well as a bad thing.

    But talk of winning a NFL championship is something you hope you’ll be hearing a lot of from your favorite team.

    With the NFL draft about two months in the rear-view mirror and training camps opening just over a month from now, it’s time to take a deep breath and look back at the work each club has done in preparation for the 2013 NFL season.

    What players, coaches or members of organizations have garnered the most attention this offseason?

    In most instances, the talk has been of a positive nature. For a few, those who say than any publicity is good publicity obviously have no idea what they are talking about.

    So who are the headliners with each club these days and what effect (good or bad) will they have on their teams this upcoming season.

    The time for talk is over. Let's find out.

Arizona Cardinals: RB Rashard Mendenhall

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    The addition of quarterback Carson Palmer appears to be a sign of progress for the Arizona Cardinals.

    The signing of free agent running back Rashard Mendenhall this offseason may be a much bigger acquisition.

    Last season, the Cards were the worst in the league when it came to running the ball.

    How bad were they? The team gained 1,204 yards on the ground last season—a total surpassed by 11 players alone in the league.

    Rashard Mendenhall, the Pittsburgh Steelers first-round draft choice in 2008, enjoyed his share of success with the Black and Gold, rushing for 1,000-plus yards twice. But he injured his knee in the regular-season finale in 2011 at Cleveland and never really recovered.

    Don’t tell that to new Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who knows Mendenhall from their days in Pittsburgh and has little doubt he’ll be the team’s No. 1 back this season.

    Things could be looking up for a team that hasn't enjoyed a winning season since reaching the playoffs in 2009.

Atlanta Falcons: DE Osi Umenyiora

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    It seems like we’re always addressing the current state of the Atlanta Falcons' pass rush.

    There is a legitimate reason.

    Let’s break it down a few ways. Mike Smith’s team totaled just 29 sacks in 2012. To break it down a little further, eight of those sacks came in six games against the division rival Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Yes, there’s been plenty of talk about new defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who hopes to fill the void left by the release of veteran John Abraham. But the discussion is whether the former New York Giants standout can actually make a difference this season.

    Exactly half of those 29 sacks last season came from Abraham (10.0), defensive tackle Vance Walker (3.0) and cornerback Dunta Robinson (1.5), who are all no longer with the team. Meanwhile, Umenyiora totaled 6.0 sacks in a limited role with the Giants last season.

    If the Falcons can’t come up with a solution here, all Super Bowl talk will be just that.

Baltimore Ravens: ROLB Elvis Dumervil

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    For all of that money that the Baltimore Ravens spent on quarterback Joe Flacco this offseason, it’s amazing they were able to rebuild their defense.

    With so many players leaving Baltimore, you would have thought the city had run out of crabs. Many seemed inclined to blame the mass exodus on the hefty contract signed by the Super Bowl XLVII MVP.

    Truth be told, the hit on the salary cap in 2013 caused by Flacco’s contract is somewhat minimal, according to Spotrac.

    In addition, the Ravens were likely going to be making some changes on defense anyway given that their unit finished 17th in the NFL in yards allowed last season. It was the worst finish by the team since 2002. John Harbaugh’s club also allowed the most rushing yards in a season in team history.

    Finally, the void in leadership left by the retirement of linebacker Ray Lewis and free agent departure of safety Ed Reed can’t be overlooked even though star linebacker Terrell Suggs does return for his 11th season.

    Fortunately, there’s also been an Elvis sighting in Baltimore. That would be outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, formerly of the Denver Broncos, who will now be getting after opposing quarterbacks for the Ravens.

    Add the additions of free safety Michael Huff, defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears and rookie strong safety Matt Elam, and the demise of the Baltimore defense may be a little exaggerated.

Buffalo Bills: QB EJ Manuel

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    For the first time since 2004, the Buffalo Bills selected a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft in April.

    Enter former Florida State product EJ Manuel.

    The selection of the onetime Seminole standout was a surprise to some, but new head coach Doug Marrone hopes to turn Manuel into the team’s long-term answer at quarterback. That’s been an issue since the day of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, who retired following the 1996 season.

    The starting job in Orchard Park shapes up as a duel between the rookie, who recently signed with the team, and suddenly well-traveled quarterback Kevin Kolb, late of the Arizona Cardinals. Veteran Tarvaris Jackson was recently released by Buffalo.

    While logic says Kolb starts the season, we have seen our share of rookie quarterbacks start the season in recent years. In 2012, five rookie quarterbacks opened the year behind center and all started at least 15 games.

    Now let’s see if Manuel can join that group in 2013.

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton and Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula

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    Slow starts and fast finishes have been the pattern for Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in each of his first two NFL seasons.

    As a rookie in 2011, Newton threw for nine scores and was picked off just three times in his last five games after throwing more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes (12) during the team’s 3-8 start.

    A year ago, Newton threw 11 touchdown passes (with just two interceptions) and ran for 387 yards and four scores in the team’s last seven outings. In his first nine games in 2012, the Carolina signal-caller threw eight touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

    Now Newton hopes to get off to a fast start in 2013, thanks to a new start.

    New offensive coordinator Mike Shula replaces Rob Chudzinski, now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

    By every indication, it’s so far, so good for Shula and Newton.

    For the Panthers, let’s see if that translates into a playoff appearance for the first time since 2008.

Chicago Bears: Head Coach Marc Trestman

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    There’s a new sheriff in the Windy City, and apparently Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman doesn’t believe in hot air.

    For that matter, neither does general manager Phil Emery, who took over in 2012 and wasted little time in making an impression last season. That would be a trade that reunited wide receiver Brandon Marshall (Miami Dolphins) with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

    There would also be the decision to cut ties with Lovie Smith, the team’s head coach from the previous nine seasons, following a 10-6 finish in 2012.

    Enter Trestman, whose resume has taken him nearly everywhere except to the top spot of an NFL team. His reputation with quarterbacks should be a boon to Cutler, if the Bears can protect him better in 2013. If not, it won’t be for a lack of effort.

    The team added free agents in the form of left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson and drafted Kyle Long in the first round of the draft to play right guard.

    Cutler should also get a big assist from Devin Hester, although the explosive performer has been taken out of the wide receiver mix. Back to focusing on returns, Hester can only give the Bears' offense better field possession on a steady basis.

    Safe to say that Trestman has left his “mark” early on.

Cincinnati Bengals: RB Giovani Bernard

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    The Cincinnati Bengals are bound and determined to do something they’ve never done in team history.

    Coming off of consecutive wild-card playoff appearances the last two seasons, the franchise is looking to reach the postseason for a third straight year.

    The pieces are in place on both sides of the ball, although there is certainly more work to be done.

    Defensively, the Bengals limited each of their last nine opponents a season ago to 20 points or less. That included a frustrating 19-13 loss to the Houston Texans in the playoffs.

    Offensively, quarterback Andy Dalton could use a little more help and he got it via the first two rounds of the draft. Cincinnati grabbed tight end Tyler Eifert on Day 1 and explosive Giovani Bernard in the second round.

    The latter bears watching immediately and drew some flattering comparisons to some of the most versatile backs in the league back in May according to head coach Marvin Lewis.

    So more weapons to go along with that defense? We may be seeing a lot of the Bengals come playoff time in January.

Cleveland Browns: Owner Jimmy Haslam

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    Jimmy Haslam is the Cleveland Browns third owner since the franchise was reborn in 1999.

    Unfortunately, it almost seems like that has been the steadiest of positions for the franchise the last 14 years.

    The Brown have assembled a pretty talented new staff in head coach Rob Chudzinski, who will have coordinators Norv Turner (offense) and Ray Horton (defense) at his disposal. They hope to end the team’s playoff drought dating back to 2002. It’s worth noting that Chudzinski, the former offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, is the Browns' seventh head coach since 1999.

    Haslam, in some ways, has been the biggest news of sorts made by the franchise this offseason.

    While everyone waits for his situation to play out, the team has quietly gone about its business. In an AFC North that is in a bit of a transition, the Browns could be lying in wait and have a surprise of two ready for their divisional foes, as well as the league itself.

Dallas Cowboys: QB Tony Romo

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    This was the easiest answer on the board. Because win or lose, when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys, no one is talked about more than quarterback Tony Romo.

    Back in March, the former Pro Bowl signal-caller signed a new contract that put him in the $100 million club.

    Naturally, according to many, this was far too much money for Romo, who has one playoff victory to show for since inheriting the starting job midway through 2006.

    On the other hand, the Cowboys only have one playoff victory since 1997. Romo was 17 years old back then and nowhere near an NFL training camp.

    If you are truly worried that the Dallas quarterback is being over paid, DallasCowboys.com columnist Mickey Spagnola does an excellent job of laying out the details.

    As far as things to worry about, let’s not forget the much-discussed issue over who will be calling the plays in 2013. After lots of speculation and often confusion, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan will handle those duties.

Denver Broncos: RB Ronnie Hillman

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    The recent release of veteran running back Willis McGahee, the team’s leading rusher each of the last two seasons, means the Denver Broncos are looking for a new starter in the backfield.

    So the talk in the Mile High City is whether second-year pro Ronnie Hillman, a third-round 2012 draft pick from San Diego State in 2012, could be the main man.

    As a rookie, Hillman totaled 85 carries for 330 yards and a score, plus caught 10 passes for 62 yards, but his busiest day came in the divisional playoffs against the Baltimore Ravens. After starter Knowshon Moreno went down in the third quarter, the young runner became the focal point of the Denver ground game. Hillman finished with 83 yards rushing on 22 carries in the 38-35 double-overtime loss.

    Yes, the Broncos did draft Montee Ball in the second round in April. Moreno remains in the mix as well, although injuries continue to plague his career. One aspect that needs no discussion is that veteran quarterback Peyton Manning needs some support when it comes to balancing the Denver offense.

Detroit Lions: DEs Ziggy Ansah & Devin Taylor

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    In 2011, the Detroit Lions snapped an 11-year postseason drought thanks to a 10-6 record and a berth as a Wild Card.

    In 2013, the team will look to snap an eight-game losing streak, one that turned a disappointing 4-4 start a year ago into a disastrous 4-12 finish.

    Could head coach Jim Schwartz’s job status be a topic of discussion?

    Not here at least. At least not this week as the Lions are hoping to bounce back from a season which saw the team go a combined 0-6 vs. the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.

    To help their cause, the Lions will have a few new looks at defensive end. On the left side, free agent Jason Jones (Seattle Seahawks) takes over for free agent defector Cliff Avril, who signed with the Seahawks.

    On the right side, youth will be served in some way or form. Ziggy Ansah, the fifth overall pick in April, has had his ups and downs in minicamp, while fourth-round selection Devin Taylor is an intriguing prospect as well.

    The Lions totaled a respectable 34 sacks in 2012, but 13 of those were from Avril and veteran right end Kyle Vanden Bosch, released by the team this offseason. The team is looking for some immediate dividends from their rookie duo.

Green Bay Packers: Offensive Line

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    Did you get a good look at the video at the top of the page?

    That would be from the Green Bay Packers 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week No. 3 of the 2012 season.

    That game will long be remembered for its “official” ending. But it was also an evening which saw quarterback Aaron Rodgers sacked eight times—all in the first half.

    All told, the Packers signal-caller was sacked a league-high 51 times last season. To rectify that situation, left tackle Marshall Newhouse is now at right tackle and right tackle Bryan Bulaga is on the left side in Green Bay while right guard Josh Sitton is the new left guard and former left guard T.J. Lang is now at right guard.

    Will the Packers will be able to properly protect Rodgers this season? Given recent seasons, that would be a switch.

    In their own way, rookie running backs Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin could have a say in the matter as well.

Houston Texans: S Ed Reed

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    The Houston Texans weren’t really very busy this offseason when it came to free agency.

    And there was nothing wrong with that.

    The team signed seven-time Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler (Oakland Raiders), one of the best to ever play the position. They also added fullback Greg Jones (Jacksonville Jaguars), giving Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster a very capable escort.

    Then there’s veteran safety Ed Reed, who just wrapped up 11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, and in the process, intercepted a total of 70 passes (61 in the regular season, nine in the postseason).

    But the nine-time Pro Bowler had surgery this offseason, so now all of the talk is in regards to whether Reed will be a factor or not in 2013.

    Gary Kubiak’s team appears primed to take the next step after being knocked out of the divisional playoffs two years in a row. But will the pickup of Reed prove to be a steal or will his availability be a week-to-week discussion

Indianapolis Colts: General Manager Ryan Grigson

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    For those not familiar with Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, here’s a recap of his first draft with the team in 2012.

    Led by wide receiver T.Y. Hilton's eight TDs and five more from quarterback Andrew Luck, the team saw six rookies selected by Grigson (including tight end Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, running back Vick Ballard and wideout LaVon Brazill) score 22 of the team’s 40 touchdowns last season.

    The Indianapolis offense was really the catalyst in the team’s unexpected 11-5 finish a year ago. It was also quite a turnaround for the Colts, who were a 2-14 team in 2011.

    Now Grigson hopes to strike gold again in 2013, only this time via free agency. The team was busy adding veterans such as right tackle Gosder Cherilus, outside linebacker Erik Walden, defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and cornerback Greg Toler this offseason.

    Can the Colts show that they weren’t a one-year wonder following last season’s surprise playoff appearance? Or is this team ready to talk division title in 2013?

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Justin Blackmon

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    When your team finishes a franchise-worst 2-14, looking for positives is easier said than done.

    And when one of your positives won’t be available for the first four games of 2013, it makes it a lot harder to be optimistic.

    Last season as a rookie, wide receiver Justin Blackmon led the team with 64 receptions and finished second on the club in receiving yards (865) and touchdown receptions (five).

    However, the team’s first-round pick in 2012 will miss the first quarter of the upcoming season after violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

    It’s been an interesting start to Blackmon’s NFL career, as spelled out by Yahoo! Sports Matt Gonzales.

    Now we’ll see who will fill the void (Jordan Shipley? Mohamed Massaquoi?) during the second-year pro’s absence.

    This was the kind of talk new head coach Gus Bradley could have done without.

Kansas City Chiefs: QB Alex Smith

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    Following last season’s disastrous 2-14 showing, there was certainly nowhere to go but up for the Kansas City Chiefs.

    And we’ve been hearing it all offseason.

    The addition of new head coach Andy Reid, general manager John Dorsey and quarterback Alex Smith should make a difference to a team that had a half-dozen Pro Bowlers in 2012.

    But Smith needs to be the difference and be the quarterback that helped to lead to the San Francisco 49ers to a 20-6-1 record the last two seasons (including playoffs) when he was the starter.

    Last season, the Chiefs tied for the NFL lead (ironically, with Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets) with 37 turnovers, and 27 of those miscues came courtesy of quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn.

    In 28 games (27 starts) since 2011 (including playoffs), Smith has committed only 14 turnovers (10 interceptions, four interceptions).

    If the veteran signal-caller is that careful with the ball in 2013, there will be playoff talk in Kansas City.

Miami Dolphins: WR Mike Wallace

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    Could 2013 be a banner year for the Miami Dolphins?

    New wide receiver Mike Wallace is certainly hoping so.

    The former Pittsburgh Steelers speedster joined a franchise this season that hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since 2008. That also marks the time the Dolphins reached the playoffs, winning the AFC East that year.

    It won’t be for a lack of trying. The Dolphins have been one of the most aggressive teams in the league this offseason. Besides Wallace, they added wide receiver Brandon Gibson, tight end Dustin Keller, cornerback Brent Grimes and right tackle Tyson Clabo via free agency. In April, they moved up in the first round of the draft to take Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan with the third overall pick.

    However, Wallace is the headliner, and if money talks, he obviously was not listening when it came to other suitors located north of Miami.

    Consequently, second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill couldn’t be happier.

Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson

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    Adrian Peterson as the talk of the Minnesota Vikings' offseason?

    That’s being short-sided.

    After rushing for 2,097 yards last season, Peterson was not only the league’s Most Valuable Player, but the talk of the NFL as well. His amazing performance came after suffering a severe knee injury suffered in Week 16 of the 2011 season against the Washington Redskins.

    So what’s there to talk about? Yo, Adrian…how about an encore?

    That will be easier said than done. Not only has no player in NFL history rushed for 2,000-plus yards in consecutive seasons, no player has even managed the feat twice.

    So for those expecting Peterson to make another run at Eric Dickerson’s NFL record total of 2,105 yards rushing set nearly 30 years ago (1984), don’t be surprised if the Vikings' running back falls short.

    Then again, don’t be surprised if we are talking a little history by the end of December.

New England Patriots: TE Rob Gronkowski

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    It hasn’t been a good year for tight ends in Foxborough.

    For now, we’ll put aside the current events surrounding New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. Not only is the talented performer recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, he finds himself in the midst of some serious off-field issues.

    But the Hernandez story is of more recent vintage. Most of the talk this offseason regarding the team (besides the free agent departure of wide receiver Wes Welker) has focused around Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski. With 37 touchdown receptions in three seasons, he has become a favorite target of quarterback Tom Brady.

    But when do we expect to see that favorite target? Only time and healing will tell.

New Orleans Saints: Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan

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    A year ago, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was serving a one-year NFL suspension for his role in the team’s “Bounty Gate” scandal.

    Meanwhile, fabled defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was in the midst of his second season with the Dallas Cowboys.

    Now both are in the Big Easy together, although the task at hand will be anything but easy.

    The Saints come off a disappointing 7-9 season, which may or may not have been a shock considering the team didn’t have their regular sideline leader and went through two interim head coaches (Aaron Kromer and Joe Vitt) in 2012.

    But they did have celebrated defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo last season and the results were perplexing. The Saints set a new record for yards allowed in a season in NFL history.

    Enter Ryan, who brings his version of the 3-4 defense to the Crescent City.

    We all know New Orleans can score points, but do they plan on stopping anyone in 2013?

    That is Ryan’s hope.

New York Giants: WR Victor Cruz

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    Roughly a week ago, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, a restricted free agent, finally signed his one-year tender.

    Now the real fun begins.

    Quarterback Eli Manning’s favorite pass-catcher the last two years has piled up big numbers for Tom Coughlin’s club. He has led the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions two straight seasons.

    The former undrafted free agent set a franchise record for receiving yards in a season and caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLVI in 2011. A year ago, Cruz was named to his first Pro Bowl.

    But he and fellow wide receiver Hakeem Nicks could both be unrestricted free agents entering 2014. No doubt that the organization would like to get one or the other re-signed before September.

    Is Cruz the priority over Nicks? That makes for a very serious discussion for all concerned.

New York Jets: QBs Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith

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    The turnover numbers for New York Jets veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez the last two years have been well documented—a total of 52 miscues since 2011, equally divided into 26 turnovers each season.

    That means 89 turnovers in four seasons for the former first-round pick in 2009, the same quarterback that helped lead the team to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons.

    Now after a season full of ifs, ands and a butt fumble, Sanchez will be challenged by rookie quarterback Geno Smith, the team’s second-round draft choice in April.

    According to center Nick Mangold, Sanchez gives the team the best chance to winWe’ll find out soon enough.

Oakland Raiders: QB Matt Flynn

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    Please listen to Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen.

    Matt Flynn is the team’s starting quarterback in 2013.

    In search of their first winning season since 2002, the franchise is once again switching quarterbacks after one-plus seasons of the Carson Palmer era.

    Enter Flynn, who Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is very familiar with given the duo’s days with the Green Bay Packers. Hence the offseason trade with the Seattle Seahawks that brought the veteran to the Bay Area.

    But also on the roster are quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor, undrafted free agent Matt McGloin and fourth-round draft choice Tyler Wilson.

    A year ago, Flynn was thought to be the man in the Pacific Northwest, until rookie Russell Wilson took the team and league by storm.

    So will history repeat itself in 2013?

    Where there’s a Wilson, there’s obviously a way.

Philadelphia Eagles: Head Coach Chip Kelly

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    For the first time since 1998, the Philadelphia Eagles fans won’t have head coach Andy Reid to kick around anymore.

    That “honor” now belongs to Chip Kelly, who comes over from the University of Oregon. That’s the team that wears assorted uniforms and features one of the most fast-paced offenses in the country.

    But will we see that same kind of attack in the City of Brotherly Love in 2013? Will Kelly’s attack translate to the National Football League? Opinions certainly vary.

    Who will be the team’s starting quarterback this season? Will veteran Michael Vick hold onto the job, as well as stay healthy in 2013? What part will second-year pro Nick Foles and rookie Matt Barkley play this year? And will former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon have a role with the team?

    We know this. If Kelly’s offense doesn’t succeed quickly in Philadelphia, he had better be prepared to “duck.”

Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Le’Veon Bell

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    One of the steadiest organizations in the NFL for more than four decades had its issues in 2012.

    It was an uneven year for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who lost five of their last seven games to finish 8-8 last season and out of the playoffs. It also marked the first time the Black and Gold didn’t produce a winning season under head coach Mike Tomlin.

    Injuries, inconsistency and other factors led to the sudden decline of a team that had won 12 games three times in four seasons from 2008-11 and made a pair of Super Bowl appearances over that span as well.

    One of the many shortcomings was a ground game that ranked 26th in the league last season, as Jonathan Dwyer led the team with only 623 yards rushing.

    Is the solution to the problem second-round pick Le’Veon Bell? The former Michigan State standout gives the Steelers some fresh legs for the ground game, as well as a player who can catch passes out of the backfield.

    Whoever gets the job, and it appears to be wide open, must become a bigger factor.

    That is if the Steelers expect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to stay on the field for the entire season in 2013.

St. Louis Rams: QB Sam Bradford

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    Most NFL fans know that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tied the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes in a season, throwing for 26 scores in 2012.

    But who finished second in the NFC West in touchdown passes last season? San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick combined for 23 aerial scores in 2012.

    The answer is St. Louis Rams signal-caller Sam Bradford, whose 21 touchdown tosses were the most by a Rams player since Marc Bulger (24) back in 2006.

    Now the talk is that Bradford should be able to do more. The team has surrounded him with a lot of targets in young wideouts in Chris Givens, Brian Quick and Austin Pettis and tight end Lance Kendricks. Free agency brought talented tight end Jared Cook (Tennessee Titans) and the draft gave Bradford former college teammates in wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

    Those looking for Bradford to justify his No. 1 selection in the 2010 draft (by the way, he didn’t pick himself) could have just cause for criticism if the young quarterback doesn’t put up career numbers in 2013. 

San Diego Chargers: ILB Manti Te’o

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    Fortunately, the saga of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and his much-discussed personal issues are now old news.

    These days, the talk surrounds his progress on the field with the San Diego Chargers, who drafted him in the second round in April.

    With a new head coach in Mike McCoy and new general manager in Tom Telesco at the helm, the Bolts are looking to rebound from the franchise’s first losing season since finishing 4-12 in 2003.

    Although the San Diego defense was very respectable a year ago, it wasn’t without its shortcomings, especially late in games. The Chargers allowed 130 points in the fourth quarter and in overtime after allowing no more than 79 points in any of the first three quarters of games last season.

    Te’o, who totaled 100-plus tackles in his final three seasons with the Fighting Irish, also totaled seven interceptions in 2012. The Bolts could use some help with their pass defense considering they allowed 28 scores through the air a year ago.

    If Te’o produces as expected, there could be NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year talk in San Diego.

San Francisco 49ers: TE/WR Vernon Davis

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    San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree led the team last season in receiving during both the regular season and playoffs.

    That won’t be the case in 2013 in terms of the former, but head coach Jim Harbaugh and the organization are hoping the former first-round pick can be the team’s top target in the postseason.

    Of course, Crabtree unfortunately suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon last month and is sidelined indefinitely. It will be interesting to see just how long indefinitely is.

    In the meantime, talented tight end Vernon Davis will try and fill the void left by Crabtree by practicing at wide receiver. It’s quite the move, but the former Pro Bowler is very talented and a big-play performer.

    Will Davis succeed? The enclosed video features some great thoughts by NFL Network analysts LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sharper regarding the transition from tight end to wide receiver and Davis’ chances of success.

Seattle Seahawks: DE Bruce Irvin

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    When the Seattle Seahawks made University of West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin the 15th overall pick in the 2012 draft, it opened more than a few eyes.

    The raw pass-rushing talent didn’t start a game during the regular season, but Irvin did total 8.0 sacks in 16 games and was part of a team that allowed the fewest points in the NFL in 2012.

    But if the defensive end is to each or surpass that sack number this season, he’ll have at least four fewer games to accumulate those numbers. That’s because Irvin was suspended last month for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

    It’s not the kind of news any team, much less a Super Bowl contender, welcomes. While the majority of the offseason has been kind to Pete Carroll’s team, no news would have been great news.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Darrelle Revis

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    Yes, there have been rumblings regarding the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Is it still Josh Freeman’s team? Or is second-year head coach Greg Schiano leaning towards rookie Mike Glennon, the team’s third-round pick in April from North Carolina State?

    That’s a discussion for another time. That’s because the talk in Tampa for months centered on the potential and then eventual acquisition of former Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.

    The Bucs swung a deal with the New York Jets shortly before April’s draft, giving up a first-round selection in 2013 and a future pick in 2014. And in case you’re wondering about Schiano’s feelings on Revis, he’s pretty clear about the subject.

    Now let us see if the former Jets star and new free safety Dashon Goldson (San Francisco 49ers) can fix the NFL’s worst pass defense in 2012.

Tennessee Titans: Head Coach Mike Munchak

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    Watching the Tennessee Titans get pushed around far too often in 2012 had to be disturbing for Mike Munchak.

    A year after a somewhat promising debut produced a 9-7 record during his head coaching debut on the sidelines in 2011, the team fell to 6-10 a year ago and in the process gave up a league-high 471 points, the most in the 53-year history of the franchise.

    That history includes Munchak, a Hall of Famer guard for the then-Houston Oilers from 1982-93 who saw his share of good, bad and great teams.

    One thing that the teams he played for all had in common was being physical. But it was hard to get a grasp of that with the Titans in 2012 and that’s one aspect of the team that will change this upcoming season.

    Especially if the Titans have any intentions of challenging the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, both playoff teams a year ago, in the AFC South this season. The team will have a lot of new faces this season and bringing them all together is a major factor.

Washington Redskins: QB Robert Griffin III

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    Who else could it be when we’re talking about the Washington Redskins these days?

    The knee injury that cut short the postseason of quarterback Robert Griffin III has been the cause of much speculation since that afternoon against the Seattle Seahawks. Will the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year be ready to play in 2013?

    On schedule?

    Ahead of schedule?

    Ready for Week 1?

    All legitimate questions given the severity of the injury, and they are the kind of questions that Griffin has been answering on a continuous basis this entire offseason.

    So when the Philadelphia Eagles arrive at FedExField for a Monday night tilt in Week 1 in September, will the star quarterback be under center?

    Let the man talk…as he did back during the first week of June.